Monday, August 2, 2021
Reading: Ephesians 4:17-24 
 
You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit  of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4:22-24
 
C.S. Lewis in his book, "Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Earthly Life," has written, "For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name is legion."
 
Lewis has said it well. It is a candid confession of the human soul in which we all do battle against the old way of sin, toward a new way of living as the self created in the image of Christ. In our baptism we clothe ourselves with a new self. The whole movement from the old self toward a new one is from living a self-centered life of meeting one's own needs and desires toward living for others.
 
The life of Gentiles that Paul speaks of is not shaped by the ethic of love but rather it is shaped by the "ethic" of lust. When we think of lust our minds move toward something that is sexual. But for Paul, and might I add for Lewis, lust has to do with anything that satisfies the self at the expense of the other. The ethic of love is always driven by the other. For us to "be clothed in Christ," means to put on his garment of love.
 
Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, "Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust. it sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must."  This is the garment of love that Paul speaks of in which we have put on the very nature of Christ and putting aside the rags of our sins of self-centeredness. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, as we put on the garment of love, may we shed the clothing that constrains us from loving others as much as we love our selves. In Christ we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/31/2021 6:19:02 PM

Sunday, August 1, 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 
 
The Israelites said to them, "if only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."  - Exodus 16:3 
 
In my office at church, taped to my filing cabinet is a "Far Side" cartoon which has a scene of hell and there are two doors. On the one door is written, "Damn if you do," and other door is written, "Damn if you don't." Sometimes I think that this cartoon depicts the life of the church as seen through the eyes of leadership. 
 
This is certainly the case with Moses and Aaron, leaders of the Israelites who were trying to help guide the people through the wilderness to the Promised Land. God had delivered the Israelites from the hand of slavery in Egypt, and yet, the people are complaining that they don't have enough to eat. They blame their leaders, "For YOU have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." The people of God are free but there is always something to complain about. 
 
You might say the same about the life of the church. There is always something to complain about. Usually, when things don't go well, the easiest path toward blaming someone is to point a finger to whoever is in charge. All the while, it is easy to forget about our freedom as people of God in Christ. Sometimes, instead of being part of the solution to a problem, we will want to nitpick, point fingers, and cast blame.
 
Our God is certainly a gracious God. Instead of raining down fire from heaven, God hears the complaint of his people and has compassion on them. He provides bread and meat for their journey in the wilderness. God hears the cry of his people at all times. God provides for us out of God's own goodness, not because we are deserving or that the squeaky wheel eventually gets the grease. It is sheerly out of God's love and mercy that God pays any attention to us and provides what we need. 
 
Let us pray: O God, you know our needs each day even before our asking or even complaining. Give us patience with our leaders and grateful hearts that you provide for us in what we need. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/31/2021 5:42:37 PM

Saturday, July 31, 2021
Reading: Psalm 78:23-29 
 
Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. - Psalm 78:23-24 
 
When I was growing up and when we went to my Grandmother Hollingsworth's house, I remember seeing the painting of an old bearded man at a table praying before a loaf of bread. I didn't know the story behind that painting until many years later. It was a painting that was rendered from a photograph and one of the most reproduced pictures of the 20th century. It was painted by Rhonda Nyberg from a photograph taken by her father, Eric Enstrom, a photographer from Bovey, Minnesota.
 
The painting is called "Grace" which depicts an old man by the name of Charles Wilden, a peddler who sold foot-scrapers. As the story goes, Wilden was going door-to-door selling foot-scrapers and called upon Enstrom. Enstrom was in the midst of preparing a portfolio of photographs for the upcoming Minnesota Photographer's Association convention. Wilden agreed to be photographed, and Enstrom arranged a table with bread, a knife, a bowl of gruel, spectacles, and a Bible, and asked Wilden to bow in prayer. Enstrom would later say of the photograph, "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for." In 2002, by an act of the Minnesota State Legislature, the photograph was established as the official state photo. 
 
The people of God wandered in the wilderness and they were in want. God rained down manna from heaven. They ate and had their fill. This psalm and the picture of "Grace" reminds us that we have a God who is generous and provides for us, even in dire circumstances. Our response is one of bowed heads in prayer, thankful for what God gives to us each and every day.
 
Let us pray: Dear God, you so richly provide for our needs each day. May we be truly thankful for giving us food to eat and much more. In Jesus' name. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/30/2021 3:16:41 PM

Friday, July 30, 2021
Reading: Psalm 51:1-12 
 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. - Psalm 51:10-11 
 
It's funny how we think that we can hide our sins from God. But our conscience betrays us and our guilt condemns us already. God is forgiving of us far more than we are forgiving of ourselves. The psalmist declares, "You desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart." God knows what is in our inmost being, therefore there is nothing to hide from God, no where to flee from his presence. And yet, the psalmist declares, "Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me." 
 
I went into the sanctuary the other day to pray. Something was troubling me and I was seeking God's presence. I closed my eyes and prayed. There was silence. But then I opened my eyes and saw the "eternal flame" that was alighted on the credence table behind the altar. The flame was dancing and I wondered how it was doing that. It was surrounded by glass and only a little bit of air getting to it from the top of the canister. But isn't that what a flame does, I thought to myself. It moves and dances. I felt an overwhelming sense at that moment of the presence of God in that candle and where I was sitting because there was movement in the flame. 
 
Do not take your presence from me, O God. Isn't that what we fear the most when we are caught in a transgression or a secret thought that we think we only know but we know that God also knows? We fear that God will abandon us or forsake us. But then with a mere flicker of a flame our hearts can be made clean again and we can move on with life once more.
 
Let us pray: O God, restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Cast me not away from your presence, O Lord. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/29/2021 6:16:51 PM

Thursday, July 29
Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 
 
When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper. - 1 Corinthians 11:20 
 
There were problems in the church at Corinth. There were divisions and there were abuses regarding the Lord's Supper. Some were gorging themselves while others were going hungry. Some were getting drunk. Paul admonishes them for their ill behavior and reminds them to center themselves in reminding them of the words of institution which are spoken over the elements of bread and wine at the Lord's Supper. 
 
In the early church it was common for Christians to gather together for what was called the agape feast or love feast. The Eucharist or Holy Communion would have been part of the agape meal. At some point, later in the 1st century AD the agape feast and the Eucharist became separated. Perhaps the two were separated for the reasons Paul mentions in his letter to the Corinthians, that abuses arose. Members would bring their own food and drink to the agape feasts. The wealthier members were bringing a lot of food and gorging themselves and not sharing with the poorer members who would be left hungry. There were some who were getting drunk. 
 
While there are certain Christian denominations that still practice the agape feast, such as Church of the Brethren, Moravians, and Methodists, it's been discontinued in most other Christian denominations. The closest that Lutherans come to celebrating an agape feast is a potluck, but probably nothing near what the agape feast is like I suspect. 
 
One of the reasons that there are some, like myself, who are ordained into the ministry of Word and Sacrament is to be set aside for a particular ministry to help keep good order. In other words, pastors are considered the keepers of Holy Communion to assure that no abuses should arise.  The same would hold true for preaching the word, although, in virtually every synod of the ELCA most anyone who is not ordained is allowed to preach but not preside at communion.  
 
Although it's somewhat disheartening to hear that the early church had it's share of problems, it's yet encouraging at the same time, to know that problems in the church isn't something we invented in modern times. As long as the church is comprised of people there will be problems. It just stands to reason.  
 
Let us pray: We thank you, O Lord, for the gift of Holy Communion. As we receive the meal of the body and blood of Christ with thanksgiving, may it strengthen us to serve others in need, especially the poor and hungry. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/28/2021 12:11:38 PM

Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10a 
 
And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the shroud that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  - Isaiah 25;7 
 
This passage in Isaiah is one of the most powerful in all of Scripture which speaks to those who grieve. There have been countless funeral sermons that are based on this passage, giving people hope that there will be a day in which death will be no more. 
 
The mountain is a common image in Scripture for the place of the presence of God. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all meet God on the mountain separately and together on the Mount of Transfiguration. The mountain is where the people of God receive the law through Moses. It is on the mountain that the prophet Elijah perseveres against his enemy as he is assured of God's presence in the still small voice. It is on the mountain that Jesus meets with his disciples and is transfigured before them, together with the personages of old, Moses and Elijah, representing both the law and the prophets respectively. It is on the mountain in which the psalmist declares that "the Lord of hosts will make for his people a feast of rich food and well-aged wines. It is on tis mountain in which God will destroy the shroud that has been cast over his peoples.
 
The mountain top is an image of God's presence in which God appears and dwells with his people forever. 
 
In the face of grief, one feels as though they are at the lowest point in the very valley of the shadow of death itself in which there  is no rescue. But the hand of God lifts up those who mourn, beyond the valley, ascending the mountain of hope. It is in the midst of grief, in which we seek above all else, the presence of God to comfort us in our sorrow. We are given the assurance that we are not alone in our struggles. God is present with us in our grief.
 
Let us pray: O God, you are present with us in the struggle of our sorrow. You give us hope with the assurance that we are not left alone in our grief. You are with us and your hand is there to lift us from the shadow of death. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/27/2021 8:33:51 PM

Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Reading: Philippians 4:10-20 
 
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  - Philippians 4:13 
 
In 60 AD, Paul was imprisoned in Rome, and for the next two years, he lived under house arrest, encouraging local churches via letters written from prison. His letter to the Philippians was one of four "Prison Epistles" written during this time. Paul's letter was an attempt to encourage the church which was facing opposition from the outside as well as a fair amount of strife and division from within. The letter also addresses Paul's thanks to the church at Philippi for the financial support that they gave Paul for his missionary journeys. 
 
This well known verse, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me," has been a mainstay for many in the Christian faith as a source of encouragement and how that we receive, especially when times are tough. I have heard many over the years use this verse as a word of encouragement when they have been feeling particularly challenged or low. 
 
Someone pointedly asked me the other day how I had fared under COVID. I hesitated for a moment, not knowing really how to answer that question, except for the fact, like everyone else, it was trying. For me, it was very emotionally draining. We were having to do church differently. Instead of leading worship and preaching in front of a room filled with people, I found myself in front of an IPhone camera. Adjustments were made and I got used to it until we moved back to in-person and I had to adjust again. The mental drain came for me, as well as with many others I'd spoken to was, the lack of human contact, having people interacting face-to-face. 
 
Remarkably, we have found strength to get through the pandemic. I know that I have to adjust my language a bit to say that we are still in the throws of COVID but we have already gone through a real rough patch of it. God has given us strength to sustain us during this difficult time.  Thanks be to God!
 
Let us pray: O God, I can do all things, because of you and the strength that comes from knowing you. We give you thanks for the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, whose love is everlasting. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/26/2021 1:42:25 PM

Monday, July 26, 2021
Reading: Psalm 111
 
Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
-Psalm 111:1 
 
This coming Sunday we will be continuing our sermon series in worship on The Five Practices of Fruitful Living.  This Sunday we will be looking in particular at "Passionate Worship." When  I read this psalm I think that the psalmist is passionate about worship when he declares, "Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart." Just by showing up for worship we are deliberately taking the time to worshiping God. When we gather for worship we praise the Lord in a variety of ways: singing, listening to the mighty deeds of God in scripture, engaging in the proclaimed word by listening to the sermon, praying, eating and drinking at communion, and giving of our offering is an act of praise in itself. 
 
I hear some people tell me that their week is not complete unless they set aside time to worship. What better way is there to begin our week than with an hour in worship? It sets the tone for what takes place the rest of the week. Mind you, there are certain things that come up that are beyond our control that we have to deal with during the week. But having worshiped will remind us that God is in control even when other things in our life may not be. Worship also helps to inform us how we ought to respond to the things that seem out of our control. We put it in the hands of God whom we praise.
 
Worship is an intentional act of the will. Another way of putting it is that worshiping on a regular basis is a commitment that we make. This commitment to worship helps to order our lives into what we think is important. Worshiping on a weekly basis gives priority to everything else which comes secondary to our relationship with God. Worship is not only the act that helps to center our lives as individuals but it is the central activity in the life of the church as well. Everything else in the Christian life flows from the act of worship: our relationship with others and how we relate to the world and the rest of God's creation. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, we give you thanks and praise with our very lives as an act of our worship to you. Ignite the fire within our souls to be passionate about worshiping you with our whole heart. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/26/2021 12:34:33 PM

Sunday, July 25, 2021
Reading: John 6:1-21 
 
So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  - John 6:13 
 
There are different interpretations of this story of the feeding of the five thousand. A literal rendering of the text says that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, which makes sense, because early on it  the text it says that Jesus knew what he was going to do, meaning that he knew that he was going to multiply the food to feed the crowd that had gathered. Another interpretation is that through the boy's example of sharing his food, that others followed suit, and shared with those around them. Sharing of food would certainly be a sign of God's kingdom breaking into people's lives. What I happen to think that often goes unnoticed because we get so caught up in interpreting what exactly happened that day is all he leftover food.
 
One of the themes of John's Gospel is the abundance that Jesus brings. You remember the wedding at Cana in Galilee, the first of Jesus' miracles in the gospel. They run out of wine at the wedding reception and Jesus' mother tells him to do something. So Jesus turns six jars of water used for purification into wine, each containing 20-30 gallons. That's far more wine than what was necessary. The sign of the abundance of God's kingdom is once again revealed in the twelve baskets of leftovers after Jesus feeds five thousand people. 
 
We live in a culture of fear. We receive all kinds of messages, mostly from commercials that tell us that we don't have enough. Scarcity and not abundance is the primary message that we receive. And so, we become fearful and reluctant to share in our abundance. Scarcity is the opposite of the intention of God's kingdom breaking into our lives. We have a God of abundance who shares generously with us. We have a God of grace who lavishes his love upon us. But we act out of fear and become obstacles to God's good intention to have us share in our abundance with others. 
 
Giving what we have with others is born out of God's love for us. We receive so much love from God that it overflows in abundance, so that, we cannot help but share that love with others.
 
Let us pray: Great God of love and grace, from your heart of generosity you lavish upon us all that we need to live and more. Soften our hearts to move from fear to love, so that we may truly experience the joy of living in your kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/24/2021 9:57:25 AM

Saturday, July 24, 2021
Reading: Psalm 14 
 
Fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does no good."
- Psalm 14:1 
 
There are a lot of people who say that there is no God. I wonder how they think that they got here and everything else. There is a great design of creation which is complex and interrelated. None of us are here by chance. We're part of the web of life in which there was a divine author of all things, including humankind. 
 
It's a miracle that you and I are here. It took thousands of interchanges and circumstances for us to be born. Conception itself poses millions of options but here you and I are.
 
Consider the myriad of living things, the variety within creation itself in which an ecosystem exists. It takes life in to sustain life.
 
If there is no God, what then? What is the explanation for how it is that we are here and that the world exists and all that lies therein. Did it just come about by happenstance? Did it just show up one day out of thin air? If there was some Big Bang, then who caused that to happen?
 
Or what about the thoughts we have about ourselves? It was the French philosopher, Descartes who said, "I think, therefore I am." We are conscious of ourselves, of our existence, or being. And, might I add, there is built within us the desire or need to know how we got here and who it is that was responsible, namelyGod. We have this inner longing to search and to know God. It was St. Augustine who said, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until if finds its rest in thee." 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, may we be considered as the psalmist says, wise, because we seek thee. As you fill us with a sense of awe and wonder at your creation, and of our very existence itself, may we return to you to give you thanks and praise. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/23/2021 9:50:43 PM

Friday, July 23, 2021
Reading: Colossians 3:12-17 
 
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 
- Colossians 3:12 
 
Every time I gather with a family to discuss the funeral arrangements for the service of a loved one, I ask them if they would like to use a funeral pall if there is a casket present. The response I usually receive is, "What is a funeral pall?" Often times, after explaining to them that a funeral pall is made of a white material, usually with a Christian symbol on it, which acts as a covering for the casket. It symbolizes that the loved one is clothed in Christ. It is white to remind us of our baptism, that we are covered in God's grace in Christ. At the beginning of the service when the pall is placed on the casket (typically by family members of the deceased) the words , "All who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. In his/her baptism ___ name of the deceased ____ was clothed with Christ. In the day of Christ's coming, she/he will be clothed with glory." Most of the time, not always, after explaining what a funeral pall is, the family will agree to use it. 
 
In Paul's letter to the Colossians, he is bidding God's chosen ones, who are holy and beloved, to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. A few verses later Paul adds, "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together." What Paul is telling believers here, in other words, is to put on Christ like you would put on and wear a garment. You are putting on the appearance of Christ and what he looks like as one who is full of compassion, kindness, love and so forth.
 
We're all about appearances these days and take great pains in picking out what we wear. Clothing fashion is a statement about our identity and what we wear says a lot about who we are. I give a friend of mine who is a Green Bay Packers fan who wears the green and yellow attire to make a statement about the professional football team that he is passionate about a hard time, because I'm a Vikings fan. Or we see people wearing t-shirts that have some sort of statement or slogan that speaks to what they stand for or against or what they like or dislike. Rarely, would we get up in the morning and pick out our clothes, however, because we feel like making a statement. 
 
Rarely, if ever, do we think about the ways in which we will put on Christ. Even though "putting on" or "being clothed in Christ" is something that we don't literally put on like we would actual clothes, we don't really give it any thought to how we may give the appearance of Christ that we have put on for others to see - humility, kindness, meekness, and love. Putting on Christ doesn't happen like an act of simply changing clothes, it takes time and a lot of thought and effort is put into it. Putting on Christ doesn't happen all at once. It develops over time as we become more mature in the faith. 
 
Let us pray: O God, as we are clothed in Christ in our baptism, so too, may we put on Christ in our daily lives so that others may see your glory. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/22/2021 4:13:37 PM

Thursday, July 22, 2021
Reading: Psalm 145:10-18 
 
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  - Psalm 145:15 
 
I grew up in a household in which it was expected that the whole family was together around the supper table. My two brothers, my sister, our parents and me would gather around the kitchen table and always begin with this simple prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed." It was a rather simple prayer but one that has always stuck with me and still use from time to time. Praying that prayer was a reminder to us that we ought to pause and give God thanks for the food which we should never take for granted. We were blessed. 
 
The psalmist gives pause to recount how God has provided in the past as he looks to God to continue to provide in the future. "In due season," means in due time or when the time comes. As we look to God, God will provide in due course. There is confidence that God will come through; after all, God has provided in the past, why shouldn't God continue to provide for us now and into the future. 
 
American psychologist Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs pyramid classified food as the chief basic need for survival. He might have been informed by the wise man's earnest plea to God not to deny food as seen in Proverbs 30:7-9. "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die...feed me with food that I need." 
 
I was in Coon Rapids the other morning and I came across a truck in a vacant lot with a sign that read, "Free food for children." It was a realization for me at that moment that there are children who go hungry in our country, even those close at hand. It's not that I didn't know this but it was a reminder to me once again that there are hungry children. We ought not take the most basic need in life, of food to survive, for granted. While at the same time, one cannot help but wonder how it is that anyone in this land of plenty should go hungry.
 
Our God of abundance desires that we are all fed and that no one should go hungry. We ought to give God thanks and praise for his wonderful gifts such as food each and every day. 
 
Let us pray: You give to us, O Lord, our food in due season. With open and thankful hearts, in our abundance, may we reach out to others freely who are hungry with the very gifts you have given to us. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/21/2021 3:31:11 PM

Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Reading: Luke 15:1-7 
 
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." - Luke 15:2 
 
The parable of the lost sheep is a timeless lesson about God's love. What kind of reckless love is this that the shepherd was willing to risk the lives of ninety-nine sheep just in order to search for the one that was lost. It doesn't makes sense. But in the world of the parable everything is topsy-turvy. Things don't make sense. There is hyperbole that is not meant to be taken literally.But the exaggerated nonsense makes the point clearly that we have a God who is in reckless and relentless pursuit of the lost. 
 
We're all lost at one time or another in our lives and then we're found again by "the hound of heaven," God will do anything to search us lost ones out until we are found again. There is hardly a theme greater than this present in Jesus' parables than the lost being found: the sheep, the coin, the prodigal, to name a few. Do these things deserve to be found? It doesn't matter, since it's not about deserving to be found. None of us deserve to be found. The point is the one who does the searching and what great lengths he will go to find whatever he is looking for. 
 
Once the lost is found, there is great rejoicing and joy in heaven.  In other words, God throws a party and everyone is invited to participate - at least anyone who is not a curmudgeon who goes on bout people getting what they deserve and that they should just stay lost. Just as the Pharisees and scribes of old were appalled at Jesus' behavior of welcoming the sinner and eating with him, so also, there are those today who grumble under their breath about those "low lives" who are not worth their attention, and certainly not worthy of any attention paid by God. 
 
The question is, "Do you want to be part of God's party or not?" Are we willing to participate in the grace-filled activity of God in the world or not?
 
Let us pray: Gracious God, you search relentlessly for us out when we are lost. Fill our hearts with the joy that is yours that comes from finding the lost. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/20/2021 10:38:35 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Reading: Psalm 61
 
Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.  - Psalm 61:4 
 
Before there was a temple, before synagogues, before any permanent places of worship the people of God pitched a tent. When the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years they would occasionally set up their portable place of worship, a tabernacle, which was a tent that they would pitch and then take down again. The tabernacle existed well beyond entering into the land of Canaan until such time as the people demanded of King David a temple that would be built to the Lord. In 1 Kings 6 it reads, "In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord. The temple that King Solomon build for the Lord was sixty cubits long and, twenty wide and thirty high." 
 
God didn't want David to build a temple. Even though the people demanded it, David abided by the Lord and his son, Solomon built the temple. Building a temple meant permanency and a sense that one could house the presence of the Lord in something made by human hands. Previously, the notion was that God went or was present wherever his people would go. One cannot contain or house God. God cannot be held captive in some small space. But that's exactly what the people of God believed, that they could somehow contain God in the smallest of spaces called, "Holy of Holies." 
 
At the end of Mark's Gospel we read that the curtain of the temple that divided the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom upon the death of Jesus on the cross. God is now on the loose. There is no containing him. God is unleashed upon the world and his presence is made known to all people.
 
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon all who were gathered and they were all filled with the presence of God, and not just a select few. When God does something, he does it up big. The presence of God, at Pentecost, revealed once again, that there is no containing God. The largess of God is revealed to all people including us.
 
Let us pray: Under your wings, O Lord, you shelter us, especially in times of trouble. Provide your generous and life-giving presence to all who call upon your name in the day of trouble. This we ask through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 7/19/2021 8:34:06 PM

Monday, July 19, 2021
Reading: Psalm 100 
 
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
- Psalm 100:3 
 
I had the privilege of holding my grandson, my only grandchild, yesterday. And when I wasn't holding him, I found myself staring at him in awe and wonder. The thrill of this is to see life and generations continue and to know that I am a part of it. The Lord is God who has started it all, having made us to create as well.
 
There is a joke about a scientist that challenges God to a contest of who can make the better human being. God tells him that he's on, at which time the scientist, in great delight, bends over to pick up some dirt to make his human being. Then God says, "Oh, no, you have to find your own dirt."
 
Whatever we create is not out of nothing, but we have to use something that already exists. An artist, for instance, can make all kinds of paintings using the imagination, but still, she will need to use the paint and the brush to create these paintings all made from the stuff of the earth. Human life is created from other human life. Therefore, what the psalmist has written is telling, 'Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his." 
 
We do not belong to ourselves, we belong to God who has made us. The psalmist therefore declares, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth, Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing." In other words, because we are made by God, we belong to God, and so, we ought to give God thanks and praise. This is called worship. But we forget or neglect to worship God. Maybe this is the case because we get so caught up with our own agendas or we don't pause long enough to have this sense of wonder of having been created that we forget to worship God or neglect worshipping God.
 
Granted, you can sing praises to God wherever you find yourself. You don't have to be in a sanctuary to do this. But there is something to be said about gathering as people of God to make melody (and a little bit of harmony) in one place together. We have an innate need to be together, living in community with one another, which includes worshipping together as one people of God. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord our God, you have made us and we are your people, the sheep of your pasture. May we continually remember that we have been made by your hands, and in joyful response, gather to make a joyful noise to worship you with gladness. Amen. 
Posted By: 7/18/2021 7:55:22 AM

Sunday, July 18, 2021
Reading: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 
 
He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. - Mark 6: 31 
 
We all need some rest, especially if we've been busy with many things. We see in this chapter in Mark that even Jesus saw the need to pull away from the rigors of his ministry and rest. But no sooner had Jesus and his disciples found a place in which to rest, then the crowd followed them. Jesus had compassion for them for the were "like a sheep without a shepherd." The crowd keeps pressing in on them and Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed the food and broke it and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the people to eat, and they ate and had their fill. 
 
Apparently there is no rest for the weary. The crowd kept pressing in on them and follows them because they had need to be fed. Jesus fills them with enough to eat for all, until they had their fill, and there was some food left over. This is the sign of the coming of God's kingdom in Christ who comes to give people their fill in abundance.
 
Summer is a good time to take some much needed rest. We need that to rejuvenate so that we can go out into the world once again and do what we need to do. The work will always be there waiting for us, it doesn't simply go away. But a little respite goes a long way to energize us. God's work is never done, and this passages sets out to prove that.  
 
I like how Jesus and the disciples cross the sea and come to the land of Gennesaret and when they get out of the boat, people are there also. There is no escaping them. They keep bringing to Jesus those who are sick. It seems as though there is no end to the need for healing. 
 
We need to keep in mind that human need will always outnumber the resources available to help meet those needs. On our part, we can only do so much. But this is no excuse for us to do nothing at all. We need to also keep in mind that we should know our limits and take time to rest. The Creator of the universe, after all, on the seventh day of creation rested, which tells us that, we too, should follow the example of our Lord Jesus with the Creator and take time away from it all to rejuvenate. 
 
Let us pray: O God, may we rest to gain strength for the journey of our service toward others in need. This we pray in the name off the one who declared to his disciples, "Come away to a deserted place." Amen. 
Posted By: 7/17/2021 7:27:48 PM

Saturday, July 17, 2021
Reading: Luke 18:35-43 
 
Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!?  - Luke 18:39 
 
Healing and receiving sight are signs of the impending kingdom of God breaking forth into the world. But the world will not have it. We can see this clearly in the passage in which the blind man is silenced for pleading to Jesus to heal him, but the crowd would not have it trying to stifle him to silence. The thought is, Jesus has more important things to do than to attend to the needs of a blind man. Or they're trying to silence the blind man because they think that their agenda is more important for Jesus to pay attention to. 
 
This is the way of the world, isn't it. Those who are blind, poor, hungry, and otherwise disenfranchised are put down as being unimportant or not worth the effort to pay attention to.  But this is precisely why Jesus came into the world, to be the champion of those who have no voice, no vote, no validity in society. He came to lift them up and affirm that they have a place in the world in which they can make a difference in the lives of others. 
 
Jesus asks the blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus is genuinely concerned abut this man who desperately wants to see again. Jesus accommodates his need to be healed to see again.  He regains this sight and immediately the man who was healed starts following Jesus and praising God. 
 
Sometimes we think this way about ourselves, that we're not worthy to receive health and healing that we're desperately looking for. But the truth is that God deeply cares for us and desires to fulfill our needs, including health and healing. 
 
Let us pray: Gracious God, we thank you for the giftedness of doctors and all others who care about us. Sustain us by the gift of your Holy Spriti to realize our need for healing. Amen 
Posted By: 7/16/2021 11:19:27 PM

Friday, July 16, 2021
Reading: Acts 17:16-31 
 
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with he inscription, 'To an unknown god.' Acts 17:22 
 
In Paul's speech to the Greeks who are gathered before him in Athens, he tells them, "The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands." The gods the Greeks were worshiping were the ancient gods of Greek mythology: Zeus, Athena, Mars, and others. They had shrines made in their honor and marble statues chiseled in their likeness. Paul was preaching to them about a God that was not known to them, the God who was the creator of the heavens and the earth. The Greeks would not know about any such God who created everything. 
 
The invisible Creator God, unlike the Greek gods, could not be controlled, nor have an image or likeness which could be manipulated. We say that we worship an invisible God who is in control, and yet, how often do we find ourselves trying to manipulate God to be in the image or likeness that we want him to be? We take offense to a God who declares love for all people. We want to limit God's capacity to extend his grace toward all.  
 
Is wanting to make God into the image of our making idol worship? It certainly would seem like it. A god of our making would be an idol, into a distorted image in which our God becomes nothing like the incarnated image of Christ whose love exhibits something of an offense to us. We want to narrow our scope of vision of who God is in our minds, limiting him to be angry and judging. But Christ shatters all those false images of the gods of our making. Christ's love, which he describes as the way, the truth, and the life offers all humankind the most vivid image of who God really is. 
 
Let us pray: Christ our redeemer, by your example of love, you have revealed to us the true image of who God is to us. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/15/2021 4:22:05 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2021
Reading: Psalm 23 
 
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me. 
- Psalm 23:4
 
The twenty-third psalm is the most familiar psalm in the psalter and one of the most beloved passages in all of scripture. It is has been read at countless funerals and has given comfort and consolation to countless others who have been sick or suffering. Even though the image of a shepherd is not a universal one now it was undoubtedly a familiar one in the ancient world and is one that is common still throughout the Middle East.
 
The psalm begins with the reassuring image of God as a shepherd who makes one to lie down in green pastures, leading one beside still waters, and restoring the soul. But the tone of the psalm quickly changes with talk of walking through a dark valley. But even then, there are words of comfort, "I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me." For the longest time I've wondered how a rod and staff could be comforting. 
 
The rod and staff are not two separate objects that a shepherd carried around with him, but a singular one which served many purposes, and all of which was beneficial. The staff would have been a long stick that the shepherd could rest on when feeling weary or to assist him in rough terrain. The staff would also serve to assist the shepherd to help guide and lead the sheep to the green pastures and still waters. The rod would have been the end of the staff in which there most likely would have been a crook. That crook, also, would have helped to guide the sheep as well as assist or rescue the sheep in danger. The rod would have been used to ward off any dangerous prey as well. 
 
Unfortunately, we have had made incorrect assumptions about the rod and thus misinterpreted its biblical meaning.  The phrase, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," is a familiar one and has been used by many parents to justify using corporal punishment in disciplining their children. This phrase is never mentioned in the Bible. But is is often associated with a verse in Proverbs 13:24 which reads, "Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them." A person could easily interpret this to mean that parent is to use a rod to set their child straight by beating them. The biblical understanding of rod here would be similar to that of the rod that would be used by the shepherd to lead and to guide, but not to use it to hit.  Discipline is a way in which parents may guide their children in order to teach them the path of right and wrong. But it is not discipline to beat a child with a rod or a stick, that's abuse.  
 
Children will have a more grace-filled understanding of God if they are raised in a safe environment, free from parental abuse. Children will form their image of God often times based on a parent. If the parent is abusive, their image of God will be as an angry judge. If the parent disciplines a child in a loving manner, that child's image of God will be that of love and grace. 
 
Let us pray: O Shepherd of our lives, you guide us and protect us even when we find ourselves in the darkest valley. We pray for parents everywhere who have the important and sometimes difficult task of disciplining their children; may they guide and protect their children lovingly.  Amen. 
Posted By: 7/14/2021 9:15:13 AM

Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Reading: Amos 9:11-15 
 
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.  - Amos 9:14 
 
Amos was an 8th century B.C. prophet who foretold the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. He spoke against the increasing disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. The ancient exhortation towards justice is expressed by the voice of God through the prophet Amos. Amos told that the Israelites were going to face divine intervention as oppression was running rampant in Israel.  
 
In this particular passage, Amos tells of a time in which Israel will be restored and her peoples will prosper. The theme of vineyards and wine was a common one in scripture as it described the condition of the people either living in a time of prosperity or adversity. The wedding at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus turned water into wine in John's Gospel, is a symbol of the abundance that God lavishes upon his people through his Son who came that all may have abundant life. 
 
I happen to make wine. Mind you, I don't go through the painstaking process from beginning to end of crushing grapes and straining them and so forth. I buy a kit from a supply store that sells the wine juice, some oak chips and the chemicals needed to make the wine. It is mainly a fermentation process. It's not too difficult a process, as I said. The hardest part, I would say, is the waiting. You can't just throw in the yeast one day and expect to bottle it the next and then drink it. It takes time for wine to age and filter and taste like wine. 
 
God has patience with us and, in turn, we need to be patient with God and sharing in his abundance with us. Part of the process in being patient means being patient with others, especially those who are in need. God's heart for justice is expectant of us. We are called like the people of Israel, to share the fruits of our labors with others. This takes time and effort and in the end we all taste in God's kingdom.
 
Let us pray: Gracious God, through our Lord Jesus Christ and the prophets, like Amos, you have taught us to seek justice. Grant us the patience we need as your love ferments to become the wine suitable for your kingdom for all. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/13/2021 1:34:58 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Reading: Psalm 142 
 
With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplications to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. - Psalm 142:1-2 
 
Complaining is as old as creation itself. You will recall in Genesis when God confronted the man and asked him, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate." Notice how the man deflects the blame and puts it on both the woman and upon God. The man is basically complaining to God that it's God's fault for giving him the woman as a companion. 
 
We hear complaining going on all the time, probably every single day. You definitely would hear your share of complaints if you worked in customer service somewhere. Within the community of faith there is a fair amount of complaining that goes on. We want our voices to be heard, and often times over and above everybody else's. 
 
The complaint that the psalmist gives before God is not the kind that involves griping about something like the examples above. Rather, the complaint has to do with his being persecuted. The complaint of the psalmist is a legitimate concern before God about his own welfare and well-being. 
 
God desires to hear our complaint. God wants to know about what is troubling us. God wants us to bring our concerns, our complaints, to him. The psalmist says to God, "You are my refuge." He is bringing his complaint before God trusting that God will help him in his time of need. Reading the words of the psalmist gives us comfort and confidence that we can bring our concerns before God also, trusting that God will listen to our pleas.
 
Let us pray: We bring before you, O God, our cares and concerns, our very complaints knowing that you hear us and act out of compassion towards us. For this we give you thanks. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/12/2021 4:47:19 PM

Monday, July 12, 2021
Reading: Psalm 143
 
I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.  - Psalm 143:5-6 
 
For several weeks now on Sunday mornings has been the theme, "Re;Creation," in looking at God's creation at different angles. Yesterday we looked at the theme of the desert. In particular we looked at Isaiah 35:1-6 in which the prophet speaks about how "the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and sining." This is a word of hope to a people who have been exiled by the Babylonians in captivity and away from the land of their ancestors. The exited were as though they were in a barren land, but then God comes and waters the earth and it sprigs forth life.
 
The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, the forsaken desert in which they were tested and their identity was shaped as children of God. They would look back at that time of testing as God guided them, provided for them, and took them by the hand to protect them.
 
What are the desert places in our lives in which we may feel as though we are all dried up and we are thirsting for some meaning, some purpose? We may even question, "Where is God?" All the while God is present and near us, just as God was present for his people throughout their wilderness wanderings and in their time of exile in Babylon. It is sometimes in those places, those times in our lives, when everything else is stripped away when we come to realize our identity as children of God. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, we stretch out our hands to you, longing for you, and thirsting for you. Quench our spiritual thirst for you with your very presence. Continue to guide us, provide for us, and protect us in those wilderness times in our lives. Amen. 
Posted By: 7/11/2021 10:40:55 PM

Sunday, July 11, 2021
Reading: Psalm 24
 
The earth is the LORD'S and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. - Psalm 24; 1-2 
 
Once in a while the question is asked of bankers, lenders, and creditors, "Do you own your house?" I always hesitate in saying "yes" since I know that we really don't own our house, the bank does. As long as we're still paying mortgage on our house, we don't rightfully own it or have complete possession of it. Even those who've paid off their mortgage still have to pay property taxes on it, which seems as though you really don't own your house. 
 
Everything that we have, including the houses we live in, is on loan to us. How can I say that? I can say it because we will all one day die and whatever it is that we think we own, does not belong to us anymore. As my grandmother used to say, "You cannot take it with you." It is, in this way, we begin to wonder how it is that we make such a fuss over things and our apparent possession of them. We get so caught up acquiring, maintaining, and holding onto our things that it comes at a price. When our possessions begin to possess us, is when the things we have take precedence over our relationships with others.
 
The wisdom of the psalmist is this, "The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it." Everything belongs to God. Just think about it. We would, indeed, have nothing if it weren't for God. But we have fallen under the spell of pride and greed, which have seduced us into believing that what we have is ours. After all, we've worked hard for the things that we have. And so we become stingy stewards of that which God has entrusted us. We withhold our giving in sharing in the abundance with which God has so richly blessed us. Yes, we will justify it. Fear will raise its ugly head and cry out, "But I don't have enough," not realizing when or how much is enough. 
 
Everything that God has made belongs to God. We are just humble stewards of the things for which we have been entrusted for a brief time, while we have life and breath.
 
Let us pray: Gracious God, in your goodness you have given to us those things that we need to live each day. Remind us daily that what we have, what we possess, is on loan to us because of your gracious hand. Fill us with a sense of gratitude, whereby, we give what we have out of the sheer joy of giving. 
 
 
Posted By: 7/10/2021 6:18:00 PM

Saturday, July 10, 2021
Reading: Luke 1:57-80 
 
And your, child, will be called the prophet of the most high; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.  - Luke 1:76 
 
Later in Luke's Gospel we hearJesus say of John, "I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of  God is greater than he" (Luke 7:28). John is the great forerunner of Jesus who is the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of Jesus' coming. 
 
As we hear in the Gospel of John, "He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light" (John 2:7-8). John's greatest feat was to step out of the limelight and point to one who was greater than he was, namely, Jesus. John was great because he humbled himself and his role in the kingdom to point to Jesus' coming.
 
Some of you may remember the great late evening duo of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. Ed McMahon was always good at warming up the crowd in preparation for Johnny Carson to take center stage. In other words, Ed McMahon's job, which he did well, was to make Johnny Carson look good, to help make him shine. The same can be said of John the Baptist, who was the warm up act for Jesus' coming. John was the one who was always pointing to the "one true light."
 
We can all take a tip from John. Our job isn't to take center stage but to always point to Jesus with our lives.We are to bear witness to the One True Light. The second we think that Christianity or following Jesus is all about trying to score as many points for ourselves as we can by taking credit for "saving as many as we can," like it's some contest to be won. The truth of the matter is that salvation comes only through one and it aint us. Our job as disciples is to always be pointing to Jesus the Christ with our very lives who are following the life of the one who shows us the way of love. 
 
Let us pray: We thank you, O God, for the example of John whose very life was dedicated to pointing to Jesus and his way. May we act humbly, as John, to bear witness with all that we say and do, to Jesus who gives us light and life. Amen.   
Posted By: 7/9/2021 9:57:28 PM

Friday, July 9, 2021
Reading: Colossians 4:2-18 
 
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. - Colossians 4:2 
 
Paul is mindful of the importance of prayer. Prayer is that portal, isn't it, in our communion with God. There are other means by which God speaks to us but one ought not to minimize the importance of prayer. Prayer is the primary means by which God hears what is going on in our hearts and minds. God knows them, even without our praying, but it is through our speaking to God whereby we pour out to God what is going on inside ourselves. And God wants to hear about what is going on within us. But prayer is also a way in which we verbalize our need for God and our dependence on him.
 
Each Sunday we have what is called, the Prayers of Intercession, in which we lift up to God our concerns for others. Those prayers include not only those we name who are sick, but also those who are grieving the death of loved ones. We pray for the church, God's creation, those in authority in government, for our mission partners, military personnel, and others. The power in these petitions is that it connects the community gathered for worship with those having specific needs. Those we pray for also become connected with our community of faith. 
 
I must confess that I'm not always so good at praying. I will tell someone that I will pray for him or her and I don't always do it. Or some days I will set aside some time for prayer and at other times I am neglectful of praying. Sometimes life gets in the way, or there are interruptions, or even my own forgetfulness keeps me from praying. This isn't to say that I don't find prayer to be important or unnecessary. Prayer is the glue that holds us together one with another and us to God. It is an integral part of discipleship and indeed the entire life of the church. 
 
Let us pray: Dear God, may we devote ourselves to prayer, in lifting up one another, and indeed the needs of the world to you; through Christ our Lord. Amen. 
Posted By: 7/8/2021 4:55:23 PM

Thursday, July 8, 2021
Reading: Psalm 85:8-13 
 
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. - Psalm 85:10 
 
Steadfast love is the Hebrew word "hessed" and is sometimes translated "covenant-faithfulness" and the word faithfulness speaks of stability, something you can count on. Something that is steadfast involves firm loyalty and unswerving dedication. It is immovable, irrefutable, unchangeable, unalterable, and completely and utterly dependable and determined. Righteousness is the quality or state of being morally correct and justifiable. It can be considered synonymous with "rightness" or being "upright."  The notion of peace in the Bible is more than just the absence of conflict or a state of rest. The Hebrew word for peace, "shalom," means wholeness or completeness. 
 
Now why all these definitions? It is to have a common understanding of what the psalmist is saying here in Psalm 85. So often times we want to put conditions on love. It makes you wonder if we put such conditions upon love if it is actually love. God's love is stable and consistent and unwavering, whereas, our love for one another and toward God is more of an "if/ then" conditional and contractual arrangement. When steadfast love and faithfulness meet, it is a love that is a unilateral projection of God's character that is unquestionable. When the psalmist says that "righteousness and peace" will kiss each other, it means that God's uprightness is intimately involved with humanities need for being whole or complete which can only be found in the righteousness of God. 
 
I was listening to the news this morning and they were talking about the relationship between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter who have been married 75 years. They had interviewed the former president and first lady about the secret to the longevity and intimacy in their marriage. Rosalynn responded with, "We always kiss each other good night before going to bed." This to me was a prime example of the psalmist's words, "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss each other." By now in their relationship, Jimmy and Rosalynn, know each other quite well, including all the flaws in one another. Not one is more important than the other. Their relationship is not based on peace as though there is going to be any absence of conflict. But it is based on mutual respect, forgiveness, and a sense that they complete each other. 
 
The more that we approach one another each as flawed human beings who need one other and are dependent upon one another and are willing to forgive one another,  the more then that we are able to live in a state of peace together. God knows our weakness. God is aware of our missteps. Does this alter God's love for us? No, God's love is steadfast and unwavering. 
 
Let us pray: O God, we praise you for your steadfast love and mercy. May we grow in your grace to love and forgive one another.  Amen.  
Posted By: 7/7/2021 7:20:28 PM

Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Reading: Jeremiah 16:14-21 
 
Can mortals make for themselves gods? Such are no gods! - Jeremiah 16:20 
 
The words of the prophets were God's word to his people and they were meant to either comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable. Typically, the word was judgment against those who were abusing the lowly, taking advantage of the poor, for economic gain. The other main theme of the prophets, like Jeremiah, was judgment against those who were worshipping other gods. Idol worship was rampant in the ancient Middle East because there were so many gods: Anat, Arsu, Asherah, Astarte, Atargais, Azizos and Baal to name only a few.
 
We can look at this list, shaking our heads at such paganism, thinking that we're so much better than the ancient Israelites whom the prophets scorned for their worship of other gods. Truth be known, however, is that we probably have as many or more gods than those living in ancient times. There are just different names attached to them: money, power, prestige, electronic gadgets, the internet, cars, celebrities of all kinds, government, political figures, houses, pets... and the list goes on.
 
Martin Luther said, "It is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you don not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God."  
 
A god to be worshipped and adored in which one's heart relies and depends can even be one's self. In this age of individualism and individual freedoms at the expense of others and community is idol worship. If a person becomes so self-absorbed so as to not care about or consider other people and their needs and rights that is idol worship. The means by which we measure ourselves to determine which god we worship is the person of Jesus. Jesus was always about the other. His life, ministry, teachings, and his very death all point to this. Jesus exemplified the very character of God by extending love to the neighbor and worshipping God alone, that is, to look to the God of love to satisfy all needs and desires above everything else. 
 
Let us pray: O God, you sent the prophets to speak your word of love of neighbor and devotion to you. As you have given to us the example of this in Jesus, so you teach us your way of love in the world and cast aside all other gods.  Guide us by your Spirit to teach us his way for our lives. Amen. 
Posted By: 7/6/2021 6:26:06 PM

Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Reading:James 5:7-12 
 
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it received the early and the late rains.  - James 5:7 
 
How appropriate these words are as we yearn for rain. Today, the forecast is for rain. I hope we get a lot for we need it. I'm sure, for the farmer, he has had to be patient, trusting that the needed rainfall will come. 
 
I knew a farmer once from Aneta, a small town in North Dakota, where I served in my third call. Thoris said, "Be careful what you pray for because you might just get it."  Years ago there was a drought and the farmers throughout the Midwest, including the whole of North Dakota, had been praying and praying for rain. "There must be power in prayer," he said, "because it came, and it came, and it came in torrents. There was, in fact, a flood. Thoris said, "We had so much rain that all my pigs were washed away and drowned." Visions of the Gerasene demonic whom Jesus had exorcised evil spirits from and put into the herd of swine that ran over the cliff and into the sea below and drowned. In this case, however, there were no evil spirits involved, just a lot of frustrated farmers. 
 
James likens the waiting of the Lord's coming to a farmer who has to have patience in waiting and trusting that the rain will come. In the early church, at the time when James was writing his epistle, there was the belief among believers that the Lord was going to come soon. Some thought that Jesus would come again even in their lifetime. We have to keep in mind that those of the early church had to have a lot of patience, because Jesus wasn't coming back anytime soon, they came to realize, and in the meantime they had to continue to endure persecution. 
 
In our day, we may think of the Lord's coming again as an inconvenience. We have things to accomplish and we want to grow to a ripe old age to see our grandchildren married, we may tell ourselves. Unlike those of the early church who wanted to hasten the Lord's coming because they wanted an end to their being persecuted, we don't have such hardship. Our patience may come in the form of having to be patient with one another. James has a word to say about this also, "Beloved, do no grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged."
 
The church is made up of imperfect people who will make mistakes and grow impatient with one anther. We might think that we each have the right way or the only way of doing things, whereas, no one knows unless we try a new and different way of doing things. Learning to all work together for the sake of the gospel is the order of the day, especially as we face the ramifications of living in a post-COVID time in which we are certainly going to have to adjust and change certain things. Yes, patience with one another be the order of the day for the sake of the gospel. 
 
Let us pray: God give us patience as we look to one another to uphold and support each other to be the church together that exist for the sake of something far greater than any one of us or all of us put together, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 7/5/2021 7:46:21 PM

Monday, July 5, 2021
Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 
 
"What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord's authority, but as a fool."  
- 2 Corinthians 11:17 
 
If there was ever a "fool for Christ" it was the Apostle Paul. He certainly went out of his way and endured much to spread the gospel. Being beaten with rods three times would have done it for me to want to quit. But Paul endured many more hardships than this; forty lashes minus one three times, stoned, shipwrecked three times, adrift on the sea for a day and night, dangers around the corner wherever he went and not being able to trust anyone, not even his own people, many sleepless nights, and suffering from hunger and thirst.
 
Do you remember the Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of the Christ." It received a lot of accolades but also some criticism. One of the criticisms of the movie, which I happen to agree with, was all the blood and violence in the movie. By all accounts Christ should have died several times over in the movie and not just once. The flogging was way over the top. But the reason Gibson went to such great length in Jesus' torture scene, I remember hearing, was to make a point. The point was to give the audience a vision, horrible as it was, as to the great extent Christ suffered for our sake.
 
Sometimes you see a movie and you cannot watch it a second time because you were so traumatized by it the first time and you cannot bring yourself to watching it a second time. Among those movies are Schindler's List, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, and The Passion of the Christ. Perhaps Gibson accomplished his goal in portraying such blood and violence. I'm not so sure.
 
Upon reading this passage in 2 Corinthians 11 once again, The Passion of the Christ came to my mind. I'd forgotten about all the horrors that the Apostle Paul went through for the sake of the gospel. His list seems too much to endure and calling us to question, "How could any human being have been able to go through such pain and suffering and endured the way that he did?" It doesn't seem possible. I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, "For mortals it is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
 
If you're like I am, you will tend to give up too soon on things. We hear all too often in the church, "We can't do that?" mostly in terms of our giving of our time, talents and treasures. I really don't think that God pushes us into the path of getting a flogging for the sake of the gospel, but difficult things may occur in promoting the gospel because it is met with resistance sometimes. Most of the resistance comes, however, in our own minds in which we tell ourselves, "I can't do that!" 
 
Let us pray: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, even while I may endure hardship, because with you, all things are possible, through Christ Jesus. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 7/4/2021 7:59:56 AM

Sunday, July 4, 2021
Reading: Mark 6:1-13 
 
Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." - Mark 6:4
 
Have you ever left home, the place where you grew up and tried going back again? It's never the same once you leave a place where you have lived for a while. There really is no going back. It's funny how upon leaving the place where you grew up your old neighbors expect that you will not have changed. So when you do come back, they are astounded that you're all grown up and have a family of your own and have a job that they never thought you could ever have achieved. The reason for this is that they still remember when you "tee-peed" their house or did something else that lost their respect for you. 
 
Jesus tries going back to his hometown and it is the sabbath. He teaches in the synagogue and they are astounded by his teaching. They say, "Where did he get all this? Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?" "How could this be? We watched him growing up  and we knew his parents well and his siblings. They were just plain ordinary people. How can he speak like this with such authority and do such deeds of power?"
 
There is something to be said for objective criticism. It is the people who are closest to you, who know you personally, who perhaps have the lowest expectations of you. And what happens when we leave home and venture out on our own is that it becomes a testing ground to grow up and let your neighbors who knew you so well that you can actually accomplish something which they never dreamed possible. And the reason for this is that to them, you're the same bratty and snot nosed kids you were back when you were still living in the neighborhood. 
 
Jesus had to endure his neighbors he knew growing up and put up with their unbelief. Did this hinder him from continuing his mission? By no means. We too are called by God to do some amazing things, even while others, especially those who've been closest to us, were skeptical. The power of God works within us also to speak and do things that others never thought possible. 
 
Let us pray: As the disciples of old, who received power and authority to do some amazing things, so also you call us into a ministry in which some pretty astounding things can happen. Fill us and guide us by the Spirit to accomplish what you've set out for us to do in Jesus' name. Amen.  
Posted By: 7/3/2021 11:09:34 PM

Comments:
Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

V
Vicky 8/19/2020 8:06:34 AM
This is so needed in our “Today’s” world for everyone. Once again Trust God and Have Faith! Thanks Pastor. (Cabin fresh air let me sleep in till 6:30 today.) 😊

Guest8/18/2020 9:38:24 AM
Thanks for your feedback Vicky. I wondered if I was posting the reflections too late for some, like yourself. I am going to try to do them a day early so I'm ahead of the game. Although, when I say this, I realize that I am already behind.

V
Vicky Anderson8/9/2020 8:29:08 AM
I will miss your devotions but I like the idea of interacting. However I wish you could post earlier as I like my spiritual time early in the morning. I was always reading your devotional a day late so I could do my devotions at 5-6 am when I wake up.

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